911 to Let Users Send Text, Photo, Video to Emergency Service
Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski has announced plans to update the nationwide 911 emergency service, which will make it possible for people in emergencies to send photos, video and even texts to early responders.
The ubiquity of cellphones with cameras and users who text have made it clear that emergency responders can gain valuable information in new ways. However, Genachowski said that this will require a complete overhaul of the 911 phone system because it uses an older technology that is incompatible with new forms of communication.
The benefits are worth the effort, though. Pictures and video can greatly improve response to emergencies, and the system will provide more options for people with disabilities. There is even the potential to add location-based services that could make it easier to send responders to the emergency.
The sheer amount of work it will take to convert the system means we probably can't expect the changes soon. But the plan has been laid out, and the FCC said it will take strides to accelerate the adoption of the new system.